Children’s yoga is becoming increasingly popular, and for good reason! With the incorporation of breathing, movement, meditation, not to mention love of self and others, children’s yoga can become a true catalyst for the deep transformation our world needs now more than ever.
With this in mind, I sat down with my dear friend and yoga teacher, Michele Monaghan, to discuss the power of incorporating yoga into our daily lives with our kids. Some of you might be thinking of doing a downward dog with your kiddo (and that’s totally cool!), but what Michele offers goes way deeper. The concept of “yoga” on any level involves some sort of union. So when you think about that, any interaction you have with your children can be a type of yoga. The key is to stay present and aware. The beautiful ideas Michele shares from our interview can help shape the union you have with your child in so many ways. Whether you are doing tree pose and laughing together, meditating together, or just talking about their day; when you give your child the gift of your undivided attention and presence you will start to see magical things unfold.
A Little Bit About Michele:
Michele has been a dancer most of her life, starting at a young age. But it wasn't until 2007 that she discovered the healing powers of yoga after suffering a herniated disc during a college ballet course. Yoga helped ease the pain of her back injury, but she also noticed a positive shift in her mental state. This discovery quickly developed into a desire to bring the benefits of yoga to young people. Michele launched Zen Kids Yoga in 2012 and began her quest to better the world by guiding children how to be more mindful individuals. Over the years, Michele has taught dance and yoga to students ranging from age 2 to 80; through this experience she has developed an extensive amount of knowledge regarding the human body, mind, and spirit.
Michele is a 200-Hour Certified Yoga Instructor through Purple Lotus Yoga as well as a Yogiños: Yoga for Youth Inspired Instructor. She also holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Dance from Texas Woman's University. Currently, Michele serves as Lead Trainer for Purple Lotus Yoga's 100-Hour Children's Yoga Teacher Training Program. Most importantly, she is a "full-time mama to her two young children and a devoted wife to her amazing husband."
I believe that life should be simple, fun, and balanced. I tend to be a perfectionist who plans and navigates every twist and turn of my life with great organization, but being a mom has taught me that things don’t (ever) need to be complicated. My children keep me grounded by motivating a spontaneous “Life is short, let’s have fun!” vibe, and I am so grateful for that.
Michele’s Personal Philosophy:
I have always loved children and find that they are naturally drawn to me. I find their glorious innocence and overall cheerful disposition inspiring. I realized early-on in life that children are quite literally the future and are therefore worth every investment.
Q & A Time:
1.) What is children's yoga?
Children’s yoga is a fun way to engage young people in the life-improving practice of yoga. My classes consist of traditional elements such as asana (postures), pranayama (breathing exercises), and meditation, but everything is taught in a way that is age-appropriate and relatable. The lesson plans I create are made up of exciting themes that are communicated through songs, crafts, stories, and games. All classes are taught in a combination of English, Spanish, and Sanskrit.
2.) What effect does yoga have on a child's body and mind?
I will have to reel myself in with this answer, as the positive effects are multifarious! In short, practicing yoga cultivates mindfulness. Mindfulness is a state of awareness without judgment - awareness about both the long and short-term effects of your everyday choices and decisions. Through yoga, children are encouraged to “be mindful” on a regular basis, and by doing so they develop healthy habits that will stick with them into adulthood.
A lot of people seem to think yoga is all arm-balances and pretzel-like poses. Of course, increased strength and flexibility are excellent physical effects that come with a consistent yoga practice, but the most important effect yoga has on children (in my experience) is in the overall feeling of well-being and deeper appreciation for life. Children develop the ability to calm themselves in times of overwhelming stress and anxiety because they have gained empowering coping tools that allow them to be fully focused on the moment. I always remind my students that they are the only ones who have control over how they respond to and think about the events and circumstances of their life.
I once had a four year old student who, on the verge of a typical melt down told his mom, “I’m going to my room to do Turtle Pose until I calm down.” His mother reported that he did just that, and she was in disbelief. Throughout my years as a children’s yoga teacher I have gotten such positive feedback from parents, teachers, and children themselves that I am convinced yoga is a key component to a well-rounded, balanced childhood.
3.) What are three ways parents can incorporate yoga in the home?
My favorite way to incorporate yoga in the home is by having a routine savasana, or what my son calls “relaxation time.” For example, every night before bed our family gets comfy and listens to a guided meditation. I recommend any of the children’s meditation albums by Sada; my son loves the “Dragon Meditation.” When the meditation is over I turn on some peaceful music and massage their little legs and feet with a blend of lavender essential oil and sweet almond oil. We say our good night prayers and send them off to dreamland in a very gentle, loving way that I know for a fact they look forward to.
The other night my son looked up at me while watching his favorite show and said “can we turn the TV off and have relaxation time?” This was all the proof I needed that this can really uplift a child’s mental capacity to make conscious and better choices.
Another good way to incorporate yoga into your family schedule is by getting out in nature! I like walking meditations, where my family can move around freely while mindfully observing our surroundings. A fun, kid-friendly walking meditation is the ABC Game. To play the ABC Game, start with the letter “A” and name all the things within your present environment beginning with this letter. Take time to identify each one of these things paying careful attention to the colors, textures, sounds, and anything else that comes to mind. Then when you’re done, move on to the letter “B” and do the same. After a few minutes of playing this game you and your kids will be relaxed and in-tune with the moment and your surroundings. Walking meditations are a great way for your family to bond and make positive memories.
Yoga books are also a wonderful way to introduce children to yoga. Some of my favorites are I Am Yoga by Susan Verde, Good Night Yoga by Mariam Gates, and On My Way to a Happy Life by Deepak Chopra. I like to read these books while standing in a circle with the kids. For each topic or illustration, we do a corresponding pose and hold it until we get to the next page.
4.) How is children's yoga different from some of the traditional sports children play?
Yoga is a great way for children to exercise that doesn’t involve winning or losing. While traditional sports can be a beneficial and enjoyable extracurricular activity for kids, they often cause anxiety and feelings of inadequacy (not to mention injuries!). Yoga is the perfect complement to sports because it allows young athletes to improve their balance and coordination in a non-competitive setting. Everybody feels good after doing yoga!
5.) Is children’s yoga for every child?
Yes. One of the greatest things about yoga is that it does not discriminate. Age, gender, race, size, shapes...all are welcome in yoga. In fact, studies show that yoga is especially therapeutic for children with physical, emotional, and/or cognitive challenges.
Every person’s relationship with yoga is as unique as they are; this is true for children as well as adults! Rather than being pressured to do exactly the same thing as the others in a class, yoga has a magical way of teaching you how to love and accept yourself and where you are on your unique journey. When this love and acceptance is carried off of the mat and into everyday life, children shine with increased self-confidence and patience as well as more empathy and compassion for others.
Yoga is an amazing gift;It can make us stronger, more compassionate, loving, open minded, independent, confident, present, and healthy. Isn't that what we all want for our children and ourselves? This is why I am so thankful for beautiful healers like Michele who bring such depth and heart to the world.
There You Have It!
If you want to learn more about Michele and Zen Kids Yoga you can visit her site or follow her on Facebook and Instagram!
Michele and I would love to hear from you! If you have questions about children's yoga or an inspiring story about how yoga has helped your child, please share it with us in the comments below.